Touching down in Seville was my first foray into Spain, and I definitely chose one of the most defining areas in the country. My first impression was HOT! 40+ degrees Celsius, August in Southern Spain is sweatin’ season. You’ll be stopping for drinks and ice cream (helado) every two hours, so factor that in, cause you’re going to need it! I only managed to see 3 places this first trip, so I’ll break the post into the different towns..
Seville is exceptionally beautiful as well as interesting. I took an evening walking tour, which took me through the Jewish sector and a few other areas of Seville. The Jewish area has such a fascinating history, so it was well worth taking a guided tour through the area on the first night. Seville is renowned for its oranges, but unfortunately they were not ripe for the picking when we were there. The next day was a big one. There are a few main architectural/historical sites that are on the Seville to-do list. My plan was to do it all in one day.
First up, the Plaza de Espana, is one of the loveliest places I have ever seen, and its completely free. If you feel like paying for the pleasure, you can take a gondola ride through the moat that runs through the centre. Next was the Alcazar, which was only a cool 2 Euro with student ID. The gardens were lovely, the style of architecture and design that typifies the Andalusian region. The Catedral was a bit different from this style. It is said that it is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, although I’m also told this is technically incorrect. What is true that I enjoyed this church very much, and that’s saying a lot, because as any European visitor will testify, you see a lot of Cathedrals, churches etc, and pretty soon they all end up looking like each other. But this one had a weird macabre feel to it, felt like a much more realistic depiction of the death of Jesus. Religious musings aside, entry fee also included a walk up the top of the Giraldi tower (no elevator here folks), which afforded stunning 360 views of Seville.
I wish I had been able to spend more time in Seville though, just exploring the winding streets and trying all the cafes and bars, but it was time to move onto Cordoba..
Just the one night in Cordoba for me, so I feel so under qualified to even mention this lovely town, but I’ll give it my best shot. Obviously the number one on most, if not everyone’s agenda is the Mezquita, which was kind of awesome. Also worth seeing if you’ve got a spare minute is the Calle de los flores and the Roman bridge. I didn’t get anytime to explore the old town, so do yourself a favour and stay for more than a night!
Last stop in Andalusia was Granada, which usually makes everyone’s list because of the Alhambra. But Granada is much more that this. It’s got a Moroccan flavour to it, mixed with a carefree hippy vibe. It’s also at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, which are covered in snow during the winter, so it’s a great place for snow sports. First of all, I’ll tell you about my experience with the Alhambra, and then get onto everything else.
Ok, first up, you need to buy tickets for Alhambra is advance. It’s all timed entries and you can’t just walk up and enter. So you can do this online, but the site doesn’t take Australian credit cards (among others). And beware that this will extend to hotels booking it on your behalf, so don’t treat your accommodation booking it for you as a safety net. The options available are as follows: book a tour that includes entry into the Alhambra (usually 3-4 times more expensive than buying the ticket yourself), make friends with someone who’s credit card will work (has to be at least the day before, so 12:15am will not work, trust me), or turn up early on the day to get leftover tickets. I did this, arrived at 6:30am and the ticket sales open at 8am. I was not the first there and by 8am, the line had literally hundreds of people. There are only a limited amount of tickets, and they start giving the morning allocations first, so if this is what you want, get there super early. Inside, the gardens are incredibly beautiful, the palaces intricately designed, and the location affords sweeping views of sunny Granada. It was definitely worth the effort to get in, I would have been so disappointed if I didn’t make it into the Alhambra after coming all that way, but it’s just something you need to keep in mind.
Outside of this, I also did mountain hikes through the Sierra Nevada (the water is icy cold, even in 40 degree heat!), tours of the cave dwellings that people live in outside of the city and took in nightlife and flamenco shows. Granada is such an interesting place in Andalusia, I would go so far as to call it my favourite. Not just because the Alhambra is there, or the backdrop of the mountains or African feel, but for the combination of all this. It truly got me ready for the next leg of my trip; to Morocco!
Have you been to Andalusia? What did you enjoy the most?